The songs on ‘Carnage’ don’t always stick the landing but when they do the results are incredible
‘Carnage’ achieves a rare, but much-desired, feat as an album: it feels both timeless and also incredibly relevant for current times. Tracks like ‘Shattered Ground’ and ‘Balcony Man’ feel like timeless love songs – that will remain incredibly affecting years from now – while ‘White Elephant’ feels like a time capsule for our current unstable, unjust reality. Album highlight ‘Albuquerque’ meanwhile achieves both: it’s lyrics about not getting “anywhere” feel especially relevant during these lockdown times, but they also double up more generally as an expression of restlessness and a sense of not getting where you want when you want.
There’s a sense on ‘Carnage’ that not all the songs deliver the emotional impact they’re supposed to. ‘Hand of God’ feels quietly apocalyptic, but it lacks the power of later tracks. Meanwhile, the nostalgic lyrics of ‘Old Times’ fail to feel sentimental when paired with Cave’s vocal delivery.
Thankfully, when the songs do stick the landing – as they do more often than not – the results are incredible. ‘Lavender Fields’ does what ‘Hand of God’ tries to do much more effectively. As Cave sings of travelling “alone on a singular road”, the “feeling when you die” and the “kingdom in the sky”, the songs becomes transcendent; almost feeling like a peaceful, slow journey towards the afterlife. The title track is simultaneously the most affecting song on the album and also the most disconcerting. Across it’s five minutes, the song alternates between yearning expressions of love backed up by understated violin instrumentation and, other-worldly, dystopian imagery (“A barefoot child with fire in his hair”).
‘White Elephant’ meanwhile benefits from zooming in on current affairs in a way no other song on the album does. Other songs, like ‘Albuquerque’, make implicit references to lockdown life, but ‘White Elephant’ is the only track to make explicit reference to the events of last Summer. Seemingly an ode to the Black Lives Matter protests seen in the wake of George Floyd’s death, the song references the slave trader statue toppled in Bristol last year and does so in a way powerful enough to stop you in your tracks (“A protestor kneels on the neck of statue / The statue says ‘I can’t breathe’ / The protestor says ‘Now you know how it feels’ / And he kicks it into the sea”). The track is littered with similarly explosive expressions that feel representative of the collective angst of the current day: “A great grey cloud of wrath” and, of course, the attention-grabbing line “I’ll shoot you in the fucking face / If you think of coming around here”.
Best Tracks: Lavender Fields, Carnage, White Elephant, Albuquerque
Worst Tracks: Hand of God, Old Time